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Oxford University Press Launches Free Online Swahili Dictionary

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Oxford Dictionaries have launched Kiswahili as the fourth African language to be added to the Oxford Global Languages (OGL), after Zulu, Northern Sotho, and Setswana. It takes its language content and will be promoted locally by OUP East Africa, which has been a leading dictionaries and schools publisher in Kenya for more than 60 years.

OGL is a new initiative that was launched in September 2015 from which Oxford Dictionaries aims to build dictionaries and lexicographical resources for around 100 of the world’s languages and to make them available online.

For the first time, large quantities of quality lexical information for a huge range of languages will be systematically created, collected, and made available, in a single linked repository, to speakers, learners, and developers.

Although an official language of Kenya, Kiswahili is not a medium of instruction except during Kiswahili lessons, meaning learners have limited time to practise.

“The launch of OGL Kiswahili provides a unique opportunity for all Kiswahili speakers across the globe to access highly researched and well explained Kiswahili words with ease. OGL Kiswahili is a free online dictionary whose content has been developed from OUPEA’s Kiswahili Dictionary, Kamusi ya Kiswahili Sanifu. As the leading Kamusi Publisher in East Africa, we are excited about the opportunity of having millions of users access our content, as well as contribute to its development.” Explains John Mwazemba OUPEA’s General Manager.

Oxford Global Languages’ overall objective is to transform the experience of millions of people worldwide by making content in their language available in digital form; on websites, in apps, and in many different tools and services.

“OGL is a bold initiative from Oxford University Press for a modern challenge and a huge opportunity” explained Judy Pearsall, Director for Oxford Dictionaries. “Digital communication across the globe is dominated by English and other major global languages such as Chinese and Spanish. We are at a critical time in the nexus of the internet and its impact on language diversity and viability and the time to act is now.”

The Oxford Global Languages initiative will also build a new type of language database which enables multiple links between languages and other content. Oxford Dictionaries has developed an innovative new Lexical Engine and Platform (LEAP) where our datasets can be integrated, standardised, and shared. This means that multiple languages can be stored and queried in a single platform.

“As English speakers, we take so much for granted,” said Pearsall. “Functionality such as predictive text and being able to search effectively are only possible when a language is digitally recorded and accessible for a range of technologies. The Oxford Global Languages initiative will enable this too.”

The Kiswahili site can be found at http://sw.oxforddictionaries.com.

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